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Red Sox manager John Farrell says the club will start veteran Shane Victorino in right field if he’s healthy, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Farrell added that Victorino is “full go,” indicating that only a setback could change those plans. With Hanley Ramirez the obvious starter in left field, that could mean Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will compete for the center field job. Others like Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley, Brock Holt, and Daniel Nava appear thoroughly blocked in the outfield. Here’s more from the AL East.
- Dustin Pedroia is healthy and ready to go, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. My take: a healthy Pedroia means that Betts and Holt are also blocked in the infield. Should everybody remain healthy, some kind of trade looks all but inevitable. Several players like Betts, Castillo, and Holt still have options, so the club can stow some major league quality talent at Triple-A if necessary.
- The Rays lost great talent this offseason, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Executive Andrew Friedman tops the list of 13 impactful losses. His departure is mitigated by the presence of Matt Silverman. Rounding out the top five poignant losses include Ben Zobrist, Joe Maddon, Joel Peralta, and bench coach Dave Martinez.
- Blue Jays top draft pick Max Pentecost has undergone shoulder surgery, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure. Pentecost, a catcher, is expected to resume throwing in about three months.
- The Blue Jays continue to be faced with three big questions, writes Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. They include the identity of their closer, second baseman, and fifth starter. Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are expected to compete for ninth inning duties, although Sanchez could factor in the rotation battle too. Other candidates to start include Marco Estrada and prospect Daniel Norris. Second base will probably go to Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, or prospect Devon Travis.
- The Yankees are right to allow beleaguered veteran Alex Rodriguez to attend camp, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. It’s surprising to see other writers suggest the club swallow the $61MM remaining on Rodriguez’s contract without at least giving him a chance to provide some value. If he fails to remain healthy, the club can also recoup part of the money via insurance.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Aaron Sanchez | Alex Rodriguez | Allen Craig | Boston Red Sox | Brett Cecil | Brock Holt | Daniel Nava | Daniel Norris | Dustin Pedroia | Maicer Izturis | Marco Estrada | Max Pentecost | Mookie Betts | New York Yankees | Rusney Castillo | Shane Victorino | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays
We recently look a look at the Boston outfield situation, noting that the logjam still seemed in need of clearance. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes in response to a fan that the Red Sox need to trade Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, or both. A healthy Victorino, he continues, would likely either be a regular in the outfield or be traded. Cafardo adds that he does not expect a bench role to suit the veteran, although Boston would likely have to eat some of Victorino’s $13MM salary to trade him.
Here are some more notes out of Boston, all via WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford:
- The Red Sox had “numerous discussions” with Scott Boras about Max Scherzer over the offseason, Bradford reports. Boston valued Scherzer on the level of Jon Lester, and eventually came to realize that it was not going to get him at a price the team was willing to pay. Boras never gave any indication that a cut rate might be had for Scherzer, a source tells Bradford, and it seems clear in retrospect that he had good reason for that stance.
- Boston did end up with another talented righty at a much lower cost in Justin Masterson. As Bradford writes, the former Indian bet on himself last year and lost. But he says he has no regrets about failing to reach an extension with Cleveland and settling for a one-year, make-good deal with the Sox. Of course, at a $9.5MM salary, Masterson is receiving quite a nice guarantee while he tries to work through his troubles.
- Another right-handed starter entering a potential contract year for the Red Sox is Clay Buchholz, who Bradford spoke with recently. Suddenly the veteran of the staff, Buchholz’s guaranteed money runs out after this season. The club controls him for two more years through successive options ($13MM and $13.5MM, respectively), but it is far from certain that they will be picked up. Either way, Buchholz is certainly pitching for his next contract, and tells Bradford that he hopes a normal offseason will contribute to a strong 2015.
- Bradford was also among the reporters to speak with Koji Uehara yesterday as Uehara detailed his thought process when it came to re-signing in Boston. “No doubt at all,” said Uehara. “It was the only team I talked to so I was pretty sure if I was going to sign it was going to be with the Red Sox. Since the Red Sox had offers of multiple years that really erased any doubts going into the offseason as a free agent. … Because of my age, it was very important.”
Commisoner Rob Manfred tops the 50 most fascinating figures in baseball, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Manfred has been pro-active during the first month of his tenure, Sherman opines, by already engaging the MLBPA over issues such as keeping the batter in the box between pitches and being ready to ignite play quicker after half-inning breaks while continuing the pitch clock experiment in the minors with an impetus to have them in MLB by next season. Rounding out Sherman’s top five are: Alex Rodriguez, Matt Harvey, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joe Maddon.
Here’s the latest news and notes from the American League:
- If the Red Sox are to trade for an ace starting pitcher, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald opines Jordan Zimmermann is a better fit than Cole Hamels. Silverman also believes the Red Sox will be better off by parting ways with Edward Mujica and Allen Craig since both are expensive and superfluous.
- The Tigers will receive a medical update on Miguel Cabrera‘s right foot on Tuesday, writes Mlive.com’s James Schmehl.
- Chris Capuano is the favorite to claim the final spot in the Yankees‘ starting rotation, notes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. The Yankees will also stretch out relievers Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers during Spring Training.
- Reports out of Venezuela (and relayed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune and MLB.com’s Greg Johns) have Mariners prospect Victor Sanchez suffering a double skull fracture after being struck by a boat while swimming in Carúpano, Venezuela. The 20-year-old right-hander, ranked as the Mariners’ 11th-best prospect by MLB.com, is reportedly in intensive care with his condition listed as serious but stable. Sanchez, who received a $2.5MM bonus when he was signed out of Venezuela in 2011, threw a no-hitter for Class A Clinton in 2013 and last year posted a line of 4.19 ERA, 7.0 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 in 23 starts covering 124 2/3 innings for Double-A Jackson as the second-youngest player in the Southern League.
Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider required) speculates the best fits for the current top 10 free agents. At the head of the list is James Shields who Bowden thinks fits with an AL team. Specifically mentioned are the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Rangers. However, now that his price tag may have dropped below five years and $110MM, other teams could get involved too. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also explored nine potential suitors for Shields and turned up plenty of NL contenders like the Cardinals and Padres.
- The Yankees franchise has benefited from the longevity of players like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter, writes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. Now, the key for the franchise is the longevity of players like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia. I would also add Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to the list as there is reason to worry about how both players will age.
- Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig is healthy and ready to contribute, but he’ll face a difficult path to playing time, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Sox have Napoli at first base and a jam packed outfield mix with Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, and Jackie Bradley Jr. jockeying for playing time. Manager John Farrell suggested training at third base to Craig, but even then he’d be competing with Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, and Ramirez. Craig is likely to become trade bait during spring training, once he proves he’s healthy once again.
If the Red Sox are serious about not wanting to over-commit in money or years to starters in free agency, then Alex Speier of the Boston Globe thinks the club might already be out of the running for next year’s available hurlers. David Price seems likely to command a contract in the Max Scherzer range, while an NL evaluator thinks Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann could find deals similar to Jon Lester‘s contract with the Cubs. The Sox topped out at $135MM for Lester this winter and they were only wiling to go that high because they were familiar with him and because he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached. The volume of high-level aces available in free agency next winter might not do much to keep prices down, Speier writes, as Scherzer and Lester showed this year that frontline starters will always command big contracts.
Here’s some more from Fenway Park…
- Left-hander Scott Diamond will throw a bullpen session for the Red Sox, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter). Diamond posted a 4.43 ERA, 4.2 K/9 and 1.92 K/BB rate over 343 innings (all as a starter) with the Twins from 2011-13. He spent last season pitching for Minnesota and Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliates.
- Mookie Betts‘ name surfaced in many trade rumors this offseason, but the top prospect tells MLB.com’s Ian Browne that he’s happy to still be with the Red Sox. He tried his best to avoid the rumors, though his friends and family “try and keep up with all that stuff. I guess they want to play GM. They let me know the things that are going on.” Betts’ loved ones may be letting him know about this next item…
- …as Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron argues that a trade of Betts-for-Stephen Strasburg makes some sense for both the Red Sox and Nationals, though such a deal is “almost certainly not going to happen.” Betts would give the Nats an elite controllable talent, a big bench upgrade and he’d probably find plenty of everyday work filling in for the injured Jayson Werth or perhaps displacing Yunel Escobar at second. Tanner Roark could take Strasburg’s spot in the rotation and allow the Nats to explore re-signing Zimmerman. For Boston’s side, Strasburg gives their rotation a clear ace, and while Betts is a valuable piece for the Sox, his best positions (2B and CF) are both blocked by Dustin Pedroia and Rusney Castillo for the foreseeable future.
- The Sox are “focused short-term” on Allen Craig, GM Ben Cherington told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, as the team just wants him to get back into a rhythm following an injury-plagued season. Craig’s versatility will help him earn playing time on a crowded Boston roster, and John Farrell noted that Craig is open to all options, potentially even his first taste of third base since 2008.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe shares some news and opinions in his latest reader mailbag piece…
- The Rays aren’t looking to trade Alex Cobb, as they see the right-hander as a building block piece. Cobb is under team control through the 2017 season and is only arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter; as Cafardo notes, Tampa only tends to move its stars when they get too expensive.
- Cafardo believes the Red Sox will acquire an ace-level pitcher before Opening Day. Given all of Boston’s other winter moves, “it makes no sense to do all they’ve done…and not go after the ace” to top everything off, Cafardo writes, especially since the Sox have the prospect depth to make a trade happen and already might be over the luxury tax threshold.
- One of those potentially available aces is Cole Hamels, who the Red Sox have been connected to in rumors but “there haven’t been substantiative talks lately.” Cafardo speculates that Boston could be waiting for the Phillies‘ asking price to drop, and the Sox have already turned down one offer that would’ve cost them both Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart.
- Besides getting an ace pitcher, Cafardo also predicts the Red Sox will add another reliever (possibly a hard-throwing lefty) and trade one of Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava or Allen Craig before the season begins. In Craig’s case, Cafardo believes the Sox won’t deal him until they see if he’s productive in Spring Training, as Craig is a valuable bat if healthy.
The Red Sox are in active trade talks with at least one club regarding first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Craig is said to be fully recovered from a painful Lisfranc fracture suffered in his left foot in August, Morosi adds.
Craig was acquired from the Cardinals along with right-hander Joe Kelly in the trade that sent John Lackey to St. Louis. The 30-year-old was having a down season at the time of the acquisition and was considered by many to be a buy-low option, but his fortunes worsened in Boston. With the Red Sox, Craig batted a woeful .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances. While the foot likely played a role in those struggles, his overall season line of .215/.279/.315 was a far cry from the excellent production he showed from 2011-13. Over the course of those two seasons, Craig batted a hefty .312/.364/.500 — good for a 136 OPS+.
The Cardinals clearly looked at Craig as yet another late bloomer (he didn’t break out until he was nearly 27) and rewarded him with a five-year, $31MM contract that covered the 2013-18 seasons. The first year of the contract looked good, but Craig’s outlook has tanked after a rough 2014 that can’t be explained solely by injury. His strikeout rate jumped from about 17 percent to 22.4 percent this season, and his ground-ball rate soared to 54 percent. That mark ranked ninth-highest among qualified hitters this season and is a troubling trend for a player with little speed of which to speak.
Craig’s contract was heavily backloaded, meaning that an acquiring team will still be on the hook for the majority of the price tag. He’s owed $26.5MM over the next three seasons, including the $1MM buyout on his $13MM club option for the 2018 season. That sum doesn’t look appealing at this time, however if Craig returns to form and 2014 proves to be little more than a fluke, a team that bought low on his services could have a very nice value on its hands.
To this point in the offseason, both the Marlins and Brewers have been connected to Craig, although I’d imagine that Miami’s signing of Michael Morse takes them out of the picture. The Mariners are known to be seeking right-handed bats, and while they did just acquire Justin Ruggiano, he could be used in a reserve role with Craig seeing more regular playing time. Likewise, the Orioles have yet to replace any of the production they lost when Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz signed elsewhere. The Padres have been aggressively courting offensive upgrades and could feel that Craig represents a better long-term option than Yonder Alonso. Additionally, the Reds and Giants are known to be in the market for a left fielder.
All of those suggestions are, of course, speculative on my behalf. It should also be noted that Craig comes with some defensive question marks as a corner outfielder, so some teams without an opening at first base may be hesitant to acquire him (especially after his foot injury).
With research revealing the strike zone has dropped by the diameter of a baseball over the last few years, the Red Sox have targeted pitchers and hitters who can control that area of the plate, John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is one of the best lowball hitters in the game. Hanley Ramirez, meanwhile, is a lifetime .346 hitter in the lower third of the zone. On the pitching side of the equation, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, and Justin Masterson are all above average in ground ball/fly ball ratio, with Masterson (1.33) standing as one of the most extreme examples in the game.
Elsewhere out of the American League East:
- The Orioles are being pushed to take Colby Rasmus on a one-year deal, tweets Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. Earlier today, we learned the Cubs have met recently with Rasmus and are one of several teams to show interest in the free agent center fielder.
- MLB.com’s Richard Justice profiles Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig as an overlooked trade candidate, noting the 30-year-old, who has been hobbled by foot injuries the last two years, is a driven and serious man obsessed with putting his career back on track. The Marlins and Brewers have been linked to Craig so far this offseason.
- With Melky Cabrera coming to terms with the White Sox, the Blue Jays will receive a compensatory pick after the first round, lessening the blow of forfeiting the 18th overall selection for signing Russell Martin, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that teams second guessing themselves is just a regular part of the offseason. A lot of folks are second guessing the A’s, but manager Bob Melvin has confidence in GM Billy Beane.
“We’re looking to get a little bit younger, yet if you want to look back to the end of 2011 and leading into 2012, we traded our last three All-Stars in [Trevor] Cahill, [Andrew] Bailey, and [Gio] Gonzalez and we ended up winning the division,” said Melvin. “We’re looking to compete again. This isn’t something where we’re breaking it down and moving in a different direction. The players that we’re getting back we like. There’s always a balance here for us in that we have to look down the road. We lost quite a bit of talent the last couple of years, making some trades. Billy is about as good as it gets as far as being able to handle that balance and keep us competitive currently, yet also having to look down the road for the future.”
More from today’s column..
- The Astros are a sleeper team in the Cole Hamels chase, Cafardo writes. The Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, and Rangers are also interested in the Phillies left-hander, but Houston could join the bunch and the Giants may also be in if they can’t land James Shields.
- The Phillies are trying to get teams interested in Ryan Howard, and a team source indicated to Cafardo that they are willing to pay a great majority of his contract to move him. Howard is owed $60MM between 2015 and 2017, including a buyout. The Rays and Orioles have DH needs and he could theoretically fit the bill.
- Both the Marlins and the Brewers have active interest in Red Sox first baseman Allen Craig. Craig, 30, had some strong years with the Cardinals before joining the Red Sox at last year’s deadline.
- Agent John Boggs says that he’s having “discussions with several cubs” about client Ichiro Suzuki, though no deal is imminent at this time.
- Dan Uggla’s agent, Terry Bross, was trying to market his client for a comeback at the Winter Meetings. Cafardo hears that a lot of the 34-year-old’s decline may have had to do with an undetected concussion.
The Rays have received some trade inquiries about Wil Myers, but do not seem apt to deal him, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “The guy we saw last year was injured and didn’t really have a chance to demonstrate what he has,” says Rays executive Matt Silverman. “We look at him as a rookie of the year who really missed most of the season and expect him to be back in that form as a formidable bat in the middle of the lineup who also plays a pretty good outfield.” The Rays are widely expected to deal an outfielder this offseason, but that will likely be David DeJesus or Matt Joyce; as Topkin notes, trading the 2013 ROY-winning Myers after a down season would be selling low. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond does not want to be traded, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson writes. “Do I want to be a National [beyond 2015]? Yes,” says Desmond. “Do I think, at this particular moment, I will be, I don’t know.” Desmond and the Nationals have been unable to settle on a long-term extension, and he’s now one of several key Nats who’s eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
- The Orioles still have interest in Delmon Young as a right-handed power source but could pursue Michael Morse (to whom they’ve previously been connected) as a backup plan, ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets. Another possible option for them could be to acquire Allen Craig in a trade with the Red Sox. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo adds (via Twitter), however, that the Orioles are not close to signing Young. Young and Morse are both poor defensive players, but they’re coming off strong offensive seasons — Young hit .302/.337/.442 in a part-time role with Baltimore in 2014, while Morse batted .279/.336/.475 in 482 at bats with the Giants. (Before that, the Orioles acquired Morse for their stretch run in 2013, and he collected 30 plate appearances for them.) With Nelson Cruz gone, the Orioles could have either player pick up at bats at DH, while occasionally playing an outfield corner. Morse would likely be the more expensive of the two, with MLBTR’s Jeff Todd predicting Morse will get a two-year, $22MM deal.